A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications puts forth shocking new claims about the detrimental effects of sugar intake at levels currently considered safe.
Researchers at the University of Utah fed mice a daily diet of 25 percent extra sugar -- the equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda. They found that female mice were twice as likely to die and have fewer babies than those on a diet without the added sugar. Males were 25 percent less likely to present normal territorial behavior and reproduce.
Despite this, the mice didn't become obese or demonstrate significant metabolic symptoms. Those effects the researchers did see, however, were just as harmful to the mice's health as being the inbred offspring of two cousins.
The study's senior author, biology professor Wayne Potts, stressed the relevancy of the study to humans. "Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health," Potts said in a press release. "I have reduced refined sugar intake and encouraged my family to do the same," he added.
The study contrasts with previous research work that involved feeding mice exceedingly large quantities of sugar disproportionate to levels seen in human diets.
Currently, the National Research Council recommends that added sugar should not account for more than 25 percent of a person's diet. That doesn't include the sugar that's naturally in fruits, vegetables or other non-processed food. Thirteen to 25 percent of Americans consume a dose of added sugar equivalent to that used in the study, Potts said.
Dr. Joseph R. Vasselli, Ph.D., a research associate at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and an instructor at Columbia University's Institute of Human Nutrition, called the study "very clever" and "provocative." Vasselli was not involved with the study.
"I think we have to pay attention to the results," he said. Vasselli stressed that he had not studied the paper in depth, but was nonetheless struck by the findings. "They indicate that we need to learn a lot more about what sugar is doing to metabolic mechanisms," he said, adding that followup studies are necessary. At any rate, Vasselli said he would be adding the study to his student lectures in the fall.
Speaking of added sugar -- want to learn more about sweeteners? Here are 12 sweeteners you should know.